Realistic, immersive, plenty of buttons to press and scenery to look at… as you would expect. Shame about the bugs.
Genre: Driving Simulator
Developer: stillalive studios
Release date: 13 Jun, 2018
First of all let me say that I’m a [insert vehicle here] Simulator virgin, this is the first time I’ve played a game in this genre so if you’re looking for a comparison with other games I’m afraid you’re out of luck.
The game is not just about driving a bus, although that’s a major part of it. You run a bus company, so driving the routes is a means to earning the cash to upgrade buses, buy new ones, hire staff and all the other things involved with running a company.
Everything is configurable and customisable, from your character to the buses to the routes. I played the campaign mode, starting with the tutorial. A friendly lady sat behind me in a passenger seat, talked me through all the controls and then we set off on a journey around town, picking up passengers and learning all the bus driving things. There’s a lot to take in but it’s a smooth, intuitive learning curve and I think before long it will come naturally and I’ll be doing the rounds in all kinds of different towns and environments. I can’t say much more than that at this point though, as I will explain…
I’ve enjoyed my time with the game so far, but I haven’t played as much of it as I would have liked to before writing this review. Twice now I’ve run into bugs so bad that I’ve had to wipe my profile and start again from scratch. I haven’t even managed to finish the tutorial yet. For example, I start a route with the throttle jammed open, the engine revving its nuts off, the steering jammed to the right, and various controls completely dead.
I played this during the couple of weeks leading up to the release, so I sincerely hope that these bugs are ironed out for the release version because they are quite serious and have the potential to plunge the Steam reviews into a negative spiral, which would be a real shame for an otherwise very nice game.
Another thing I’ll include in the ‘Bugs’ section is that fact that the game is afflicted with Denuvo. People are still using this? Really? It’s useless, everyone hates it and it means that the de facto UE4 Linux version will never happen. Grrr!
On the plus side, there’s a very active Discord server full of astragon staff and hardened beta testers – this is where I learned how to wipe my profile – so even if you do encounter bugs, at least there will be someone to commiserate with and/or ask for advice.
Please note: when given the Press key for this game I was asked to mention that this is a pre-release version and there are some bugs that are being worked on. There was a PDF document listing the known bugs. These were all minor, annoying bugs, not the game-breaking variety that I’ve seen.
Multiplayer & Modding
I’ve never been much into either of these things but if you are this seems to be an important part of the game for advanced players. There are in-game tools for loading mods and already several mods in the Steam Workshop area – and the game hasn’t even launched yet! Who knows, when I get more experience with the game I may go in search of a Right Hand Drive option – I’m British, you see!
Sound & Vision
Graphics are UE4 so you won’t be disappointed. I feel totally immersed, especially with the Steam controller which allows me to use left-stick for direction and right-pad to look around naturally. Very pleasant. There’s lots of scenery to watch, traffic lights to pay attention to and everything else you’d expect to see from a bus cockpit.
It boasts an impressive 1100 sound effects and you can listen to the radio while driving.
The bus designs are based on accurate representations of real buses. I’m no bus expert so you’ll have to take the word of the devs on that 🙂
It’s not the type of game that involves cerebral puzzle solving, hectic movement or anything like that so you’re unlikely to get ‘stuck’. There is some challenge to be had from learning all the buttons and switches in the driver’s seat; every button and function of the controller is put to use, with triple-presses, sub-menus and all kinds of bewildering stuff – now I know how Formula 1 drivers must feel with all their steering wheel buttons! It seems like a logical layout that would become comfortable after a while though.
The subtle movements necessary to drive the bus take some getting used to. Crashing is VERY costly, as I’ve discovered on an embarrassing number of occasions haha! I’ve also accidentally run over a few pedestrians, but the less said about that the better. On top of it all, the game throws unexpected situations at you, for example, wheelchairs, fare-dodgers and the like.
TL;DR this is about upgrading stuff and enjoying a realistic driving experience. It’s not about the challenge.
It has all the Steam things but I think a few of them may not be listed on the store page. There is certainly Workshop support, not mentioned, and it surely must have Cloud support(?)
It says “partial” controller support but from what I’ve seen this means that while you’re driving the bus there is full controller support, you can control everything, and every button has a use. Where it doesn’t seem to work so well is when you’re messing around in the setup menus between routes, and that doesn’t really matter anyway, it’s easier to use a mouse for that. Both my Steam and Xbone controllers work nicely… well, until the bugs happen of course.
It will be $35 and that seems fair, I would be happy to pay full price as long as the bugs are ironed out.
This is a potentially wonderful game that I could see myself playing for many hours. The only problem is that I’m not able to play it at the moment. For this reason I’ve had to severely mark it down from what would have been a solid SoQ ‘Save’ rating.